Rich Tucker

That great political philosopher Harry Truman said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

Well, the foreign policy corollary to Truman's adage would be, "If you expect to find an ally you can count on, get a clue."

Nations have permanent interests, but not permanent alliances.

So while the United States works with other countries to advance our interests, we also should continuously ask ourselves whether our allies still share our goals.

The idea is to build alliances to deal with specific problems as they come up.

This brings us to the recent "secret" memo from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

The five-page document was leaked to The New York Times. Maybe Patrick Fitzgerald can launch a two-year, multimillion-dollar investigation to get to the bottom of that leak.

In the meantime, the "news" in the memo seems to be that the Bush administration isn't sure it can trust the Iraqi leadership.

"Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq," the memo said.

Well, that's on the money. We can't trust that Maliki shares our goals; we have to verify that Maliki shares our goals.

If our attempts to verify make Maliki unhappy, that's all to the good.

Let him work ever harder to prove he's accomplishing what he says he wants to accomplish, and the job will get done sooner.

Hadley's memo adds that the United States should help the Iraqi prime minister whenever we can.

This too makes perfect sense — as long as we've first determined that Maliki is working toward the same goal that we are: a stable, prosperous Iraq.

On a more practical level, Hadley writes that we should "continue to target al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the JAM [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner."

That final thought is really the key: to the memo, to the war in Iraq, and to the greater fight against international terrorism.

Our allies, whether in Iraq or Britain, Japan or Kuwait, must know they can count on the United States to be a reliable partner. They could be forgiven for wondering.

For more than a year, congressional Democrats have insisted it's time to pull out of Iraq entirely.

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania made that case last year.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for